Inside Llewyn Davis

February 2014 Prof. Scarlet Leslie

Mew. That was my predominate thought while watching this movie... and it wasn't just because of the cat.

For Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brothers transport viewers back to Greenwich Village in 1961. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a struggling folk singer trying to make it in the music scene. He recently lost his singing partner and his solo album isn't selling. Llewyn finds respite from the harsh New York City winter by sleeping on people's couches and earns money by playing any gigs he can find. His antics eventually lead him on a road trip to Chicago for an audition.

Reading that, you might feel bad for Llewyn. Truth is, Llewyn Davis is a jerk. Just when I start to feel sorry for the guy, he says or does something that rubs me the wrong way. Although not everything that is happening in his life is his fault, his attitude doesn't help much. The wandering storyline had me confused sometimes, but it reflected Llewyn's own thoughts, so to speak.

While I wouldn't say that this is an uplifting film, there are many humorous moments. One of my favorite scenes was when Llewyn's friend Jim (Justin Timberlake) invites him to record "Please Mr. Kennedy," a song about an astronaut who is reluctant to go to space. The majority of the music in the movie was performed live, which I found to be impressive. Oscar Isaac highlighted his Julliard training in this movie. Justin Timberlake also showcased his musical range. The folk music is reminiscent of the other Coen brothers movie that I have watched all the way through, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which makes sense because that film was also a collaboration with music producer T Bone Burnett.

Finally, the cat. (Another connection to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, by the way.) Llewyn accidentally lets out the tabby cat of one of his couch donor friends. He has to take the cat with him or chase the cat for a significant amount of movie. Well, it was probably multiple cats. But the captured expressions of the cat(s) in the film were perfect. (Yeah, I stayed away from the purr. Go me.) In fact, the cinematography throughout the movie is absolutely stunning.

The time frame of the entire movie is only supposed to be a week, so don't expect any huge changes in character. But if you can appreciate wry humor, folk music, and amazing camera shots, give Inside Llewyn Davis a try.